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The CEO of Reddit Is Also on Trial -- On Reddit

"You don't get to become CEO by being a nice lady," wrote DamienJaxx.


Ellen Pao may be in court today for a discrimination suit she filed against her old employer, but her career has moved on.

She is currently the interim CEO of Reddit, the free-wheeling discussion board of news and silly Internet memes that also harbors some of the Internet’s darkest communities.

And some of the 174 million members of Reddit have opinions on her case — a lawsuit alleging gender discrimination by the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, where she was a partner who was denied promotions and later fired for her complaint. While at the firm, she had a relationship with a colleague, and, she alleges, suffered retaliation from her colleague after she broke off the relationship.

The most popular comment in one of the main Reddit discussion threads is from a user called heezle: “Two degrees from Harvard and one from Princeton and she’s still dumb enough to get ‘pressured’ into sleeping with a married co-worker to get ahead in her career.”

Some commenters stepped in to defend Pao’s case and her role as CEO, but many have attacked further.

“She looks like a bag of rocks,” a commenter called RamblinRambo3 wrote about her appearance, a popular topic in the threads.

“Of course she claims that she ‘was pressured into having sex’. That alone tells me she is lying,” wrote another named foooow.

Or: “I’m tired of these beta feminist assholes. I say let them eat the poison they made, and let all of them get sued into bankruptcy. Maybe Google will think twice before investing $300 million dollars to pay for only women’s computer science degrees again when all those women sue the fuck out of them too,” from a poster whose username is unprintable.

Some Reddit users were upset that Reddit moderators had decided one of the longer discussions of the Pao case had been inappropriately submitted to the site’s “technology” section — presumably because it’s about an employment lawsuit — and cut off the post there. The conversation continued in the site’s “conspiracy” section.

Indeed, conspiracy theories about the trial and of how Pao became CEO of Reddit abound. Some commenters posit Reddit hired Pao because she was vulnerable: “Reddit’s leadership is highly into militant social justice. Not hiring a woman who left another company and claimed sex discrimination would be as bad as raping her.”

One popular theory in the discussions is that Pao’s sexual relationship with a co-worker was with a subordinate. This is inaccurate.

But other parts of the conversation are quite intelligent, exploring the nuances of dating a co-worker or dealing with the challenges of working in a business world dominated by an “old boy network.”

“You don’t get to become CEO by being a nice lady,” wrote DamienJaxx.

“Intelligence doesn’t negate the fact you can be manipulated and hurt. Sexual coercion strikes at all levels of education, class, and walks of life, and is a serious and terrible reality no matter who it affects,” added Anandora.

After filing suit against and being fired from the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins in 2012, Pao joined Reddit in 2013 to lead its business efforts. She was made the interim CEO in November 2014, in the wake of the sudden departure of former CEO Yishan Wong, who had recruited her to the company.

Pao has not had much of a public profile in her relatively new role, so she’s not necessarily well known to the Reddit community, many of whom are likely hearing about her in-depth for the first time — through the lens of the lawsuit.

Perhaps the funniest comment was a reference to the lighter side of Reddit.

A user by the name Ahmad said: “Yeah i thought the CEO of reddit would be a giant cat or something.”

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